For the past two regular seasons, the Chicago Bulls were the best team in the East. They were the top seed.
But they played much of the season in their top gear — especially on defense — which overwhelmed opponents but left questions about whether they could step it up in the playoffs. We’ll never know what might have happened if they faced the Heat in the conference finals last year because Derrick Rose’s ACL gave out on a jump stop.
In the off-season the Bulls started making moves to suggest they were looking at adding a star in two summers rather than just trying to win with what they have. The bench got shorter — C.J. Watson turned into Kirk Hinrich, Kyle Korver became Marco Belinelli, Omer Asik became Nazr Mohammed, Ronnie Brewer downgraded into Vladimir Radmanovic.
Now they have to start the season with that bench and without Rose — and likely go until around the All Star break in late February to get him back. So how good are the Bulls next season?
Taj Gibson told ESPNChicago.com he thinks the Bulls will still be competitive (hat tip to SLAM).
“We still did good even when we didn’t have Derrick (last season),” said Gibson, who threw out a ceremonial first pitch before the Chicago White Sox’s game on Monday. “We beat the Heat without Derrick.
“Our mindset hasn’t changed. It’s about staying focused and taking one game at a time. We understand it’s going to be up and down at the beginning of the season. We can’t look forward to the end. We got to look forward to one game at a time and playing to our strengths and just listening to coach (Tom Thibodeau). I know it’s going to be a long season, but I’m really optimistic about what’s going to happen.”
That’s a good attitude. The Bulls were 18-9 in the regular season without Rose and were able to continue to overwhelm opponents, but when it got to the Sixers in the first round of the playoffs the Bulls went 0-4 on games he did not play.
Come the regular season the Bulls are not going to keep winning two-thirds of their games without Rose. But with their defense and athletes they are not a below .500 team either. The issue is that when Rose comes back he will have to round into shape for a while. The Bulls could end up being that six or seven seed that nobody wants to face because they are getting healthy.
But they are not the best team in the East any more. Not sure that they ever really were.
Anfernee Simons spent the last year playing high school basketball. But because he did so as a fifth-year prep after technically graduating from high school last year and turns 19 in June, he’s eligible for the NBA draft.
Following a path taken by Thon Maker and considered by Jonathan Isaac, Simons – as expected – is turning pro.
Jonathan Givony of ESPN:
Anfernee Simons will forgo his collegiate eligibility and declare for the 2018 NBA draft, he informed ESPN.
Simons informed ESPN that he will sign with agent Bobby Petriella of Rosenhaus Sports Representation
Simons looks like a mid-first-rounder, though his range is quite wide considering how large of a jump he’s making. Teams can learn relatively more about him in workouts and interviews.
A 6-foot-4 shooting guard who specializes in scoring, Simons is quick on his feet with a quick release off the dribble – with range from beyond the 3-point arc to an impressive floater game. Those floaters will be important, because Simons isn’t nearly strong enough for the NBA. He’s also a lackluster passer, though because of physicality concerns, no team will count on Simons to run an offense anytime soon, anyway. He’ll have time to develop as a distributor.
By signing with agents, Simons loses his college eligibility. Drew Rosenhaus, a big-name football agent, isn’t certified with the National Basketball Players Association. Petriella’s only NBA client has been Diamond Stone, a 2016 second-rounder who’s out of the league. They’re all in this bold venture together now.
As the NBA considers changing its draft rules for young prospects, Simons will be an interesting case study. He obviously meets the draft-eligibility requirements in the one-and-done era, but he’s also jumping from prep-school competition to the NBA. The league’s strength and nutrition programs should serve him well. His overall development could influence the wider debate.
In the midst of his historic 32-point, 30-rebound game, Dwight Howard picked up a technical foul for arguing about an uncalled foul when his shot was blocked.
Charlotte Hornets center Dwight Howard has been suspended one game without pay for receiving his 16th technical foul of the 2017-18 season, it was announced today by Kiki VanDeWeghe, Executive Vice President, Basketball Operations.
Five players have been suspended 11 times under NBA’s current technical-foul policy, which went into effect before the 2005-06 season and suspends players one game for their 16th technical and another game for every other subsequent tech each season.
The full list of suspensions:
- Rasheed Wallace 2006-07
- Rasheed Wallace 2006-07
- Stephen Jackson 2008-09
- Dwight Howard 2010-11
- Dwight Howard 2010-11
- DeMarcus Cousins 2013-14
- Blake Griffin 2013-14
- DeMarcus Cousins 2015-16
- DeMarcus Cousins 2016-17
- DeMarcus Cousins 2016-17
- Dwight Howard 2017-18
The Hornets are already out of the playoff race, and Howard will serve the suspension against the tanking Grizzlies tonight. He loses $162,069 in salary, but the effects of this suspension are relatively minimal.
However, Howard will miss his first game this season. Playing all 82 games would have been quite an accomplishment at this stage of his career.
The Spurs reportedly held a players-only meeting to implore Kawhi Leonard to play. He reportedly defended his missing games due to injury. Even if his teammates believed his extended absence was justified, they surely wanted to know when it would end.
Apparently, they didn’t get an answer.
Jabari Young of the San Antonio Express-News:
According to sources, Leonard, who was caught off guard by the meeting, stood his ground. He spoke up telling his teammates that a return was still the goal. But Leonard offered no set date or guarantee about a return this season.
Leonard did receive support from some teammates, urging him not to return until he feels healthy enough, sources told the Express-News.
The meeting lasted roughly five to 10 minutes with no clear update on Leonard’s plans.
Leonard previously told teammates he planned to return to play, according to Danny Green (who, incidentally, denied the ESPN report). Later, Leonard said he planned to play soon. But despite reportedly targeting a return a week ago, he remains out.
No matter how hard anyone pushes, nobody can seem to get a straight answer – which only adds frustration.
Some teammates are apparently more understanding than others, though. Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN characterized the meeting as “tense and emotional at times” with teammates “expressing frustration and confusion.” Young adds Leonard “did receive support from some teammates, urging him not to return until he feels healthy enough.”
I’m sure everyone wants Leonard back only once he’s healthy enough, but that’s a vague standard. The Spurs have reportedly cleared him. Leonard and his own medical team haven’t. It wouldn’t be surprising if his teammates are also divided on whether or not Leonard should play.
When will he deem himself ready? If this meeting didn’t yield an answer, I don’t know what will.
A pattern is emerging.
A report said there’s a disconnect between Kawhi Leonard and the Spurs. Leonard’s uncle denied it.
A report said San Antonio held a players-only meeting to implore Leonard to play. Danny Green denied it.
Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN wrote the latest article. Michael C. Wright and Ramona Shelburne contributed. These are credible reporters.
At minimum, someone wants the information out there. That alone makes this an issue. The Spurs, so unaccustomed to dealing with this noise, are facing it now.
Is every detail in the report accurate? Is it accurate overall? I don’t know.
But Green is loyal to San Antonio. Him shooting down a report of disarray means something, but it doesn’t mean everything.